STATISTICS COMMISSIONíS SECOND ANNUAL REPORT LAUNCH

The Second Annual Report of the Statistics Commission was published on 17 July and covers its substantive activities for the financial year 2001-02. At an Open meeting on that day six of the eight Commission members were present together with the Chief Executive. Following the Chairman, Sir John Kingmanís introductory remarks, which highlighted the overdue National Statistics Code of Practice, and the controversial treatment of data on pension funds and Network Rail, each of them 
contributed a short statement reflecting an aspect of the Commissionís concerns. The range of topics included understanding the perspective of users, working with devolved administrations, maintaining the confidentiality of personal data, assessing achievement of government targets, and understanding and communicating their reliability, and ensuring effective government communication with the wider public, not just professional statistics users.

Points raised by the audience (and responses thereto) were concerned with GDP (preliminary figures, subsequently revised became more accurate), the significance of the term ĎNational Statisticsí (had not changed from the Framework Documentís meaning); comparing UKís practices with those in other countries (the RSS-organised meeting with representatives from outside the UK had been useful; the UK was ahead in some areas, behind in others); interaction with user groups (need to be satisfied that there were good channels of communication between users and government statisticians, and that the Commission was well informed on usersí views); treatment of data on midwifery (not previously raised with the Commission, but would consider); less than satisfactory mechanism for tapping usersí views (rejected the view that present arrangements were inadequate); Key Stage 2 results (the subject of many letters received from the public, stimulated Commission to ensure that government responded satisfactorily to public concerns Ė not a role it had initially seen for itself); disparity between presenting a picture of an apparently active body and public perception of a low profile (continuous flow of quick statements or frequent media coverage was not the policy; Commission might be toothless but had a tongue; statistics legislation would now be under consideration); consultation on possible legislation and relationship with National Audit Office (consultation a matter of months rather than years; more concerned about gaps rather than overlap with NAO); government targets and their achievement (was neutral about the data but sought to ensure that all research evidence was taken into account by government).

A detailed account of the meeting and the Commissionís report are available on the website, www.statscom.org.uk.